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It's just a number ...

But your age may be the key to travel discounts

When it comes to travel, your date of birth is more than just a personal anniversary--if you target the right discount program. In fact, the industry is loaded with special fares and amenities for youngsters, college students and folks over 50. So now that you've got a good reason to reveal your true age, here's a selection of travel deals that may meet your needs.

BARGAINS FOR THE BABES

"Many people don't realize there are special kid's fares for ages two to 11. They can range anywhere from 25% to 50% off adult full-fare tickets, particularly on international flights," advises Tom Parsons, owner and publisher of Bestfares.com. His company, which has a private magazine and Website (www.bestfares.com) that allows subscribers to access travel deals regularly, finds that the best bargains for kids are to destinations outside the U.S. and Canada--especially to Puerto Rico, Europe, the Caribbean, South America and Asia. In the U.S., bargains are usually seasonal. "Southwest Airlines gives free airfare, hotel and skiing, usually from November through March. I expect Alaska Airlines to run a promotion where kids fly free to Disneyland from January through June. Packages may even include free passes [to the park]," says Parsons.

According to Deb Cornick, publisher-editor of Have Children Will Travel a newsletter (havechildrenwilltravel.com or 877-699-5869), "The travel industry as a whole is offering a lot more to entice families." She says some hotel chains offer free nights or meals for children. Also Amtrak (800-872-7245) allows adults to bring up to two children (ages two to 15) for half of the adult fare. The key to acquiring special children's deals is to inquire about the family discount program. "A lot of times they won't offer it to you unless you ask," Cornick advises.

SAVINGS FOR STUDENTS

Young people can take advantage of TWA's four-coupon Youth Travel Pak (800-221-2000) for $548. With proof of age, anyone between 14 and 24 can buy four one-way coupons or two round-trip tickets and fly for up to one year on those coupons. The plan requires a 14-day advance reservation to confirm the seat. Parsons says the coupons don't have the same restrictions that apply to regular tickets. "And you can stand by with no notice at any time [as long as you have a confirmed ticket]."

Other carriers specifically offer discounts to college students, no matter what their age. The American Airlines' Website (www.aa.com) features College SAAver Fares, which enable students to sign up for the carrier's e-mail list for a link to special offers. Also, American Express, in cooperation with Continental Airlines, has the Student Privilege Program (800-582-5823 or www.americanexpress.com/student/continental), which provides student card holders with discount travel certificates as well as bonus frequent-flier miles. And Amtrak gives all students a 10% to 15% discount on ticket purchases.

College students will find the biggest travel bargains on international carriers. They typically offer student fares to Europe on a standby basis. If you're under 26, you can take advantage of low-fare charter and consolidator flights that are made available by the Council on International Educational Exchange (33-1-44-41-74-74).

SENIORS SAVE TOO

Growing older has its privileges. With one-third of travelers over 50, according to Joan Rattner Heilman, author of Unbelievably Good Deals and Great Adventures That You Absolutely Can't Get Unless You're Over 50 (Contemporary Books, $11.95), companies are actively targeting this segment. Most major airlines offer seniors over 62 discounts of 10% and many sell senior discount travel coupons.

Airlines aren't the only discounters. Amtrak offers 15% off to all riders age 62 and older. In addition, car renters over 50 can get 5% to 20% off, although many discounts are only open to members of the American Association of Retired Persons www.aarp.org or 800-424-3410), the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (416-363-8748) or Mature Outlook (800-336-6300).

Hotels, such as Hilton, give seniors age 50-plus discounts of up to 50%. Hilton's Senior HHonors program costs $55 annually, and gives members discounts of up to half off room rates and a 20% discount at hotel restaurants--even if they're not an overnight guest.

So, whether it's for your children, your parents or yourself, taking advantage of age-based discounts can save you big bucks when you book. As Parsons puts it, "As long as you think ahead and keep an open mind, there's a deal out there for you."

How you can use age for big travel bargains

* Ask if there are child, student or senior-citizen discounts when you book.

* Enroll your children, your parents and yourself in frequent-flier programs.

* Clarify any restrictions for discount programs.

* Find out if you can earn frequent-flier miles when you get airfare discounts.

* Ask if frequent-stay points can be earned when you join discount programs at hotels.

* Always carry a college identification card or proof of age.

* Make sure the discount you receive beats out other promotions.

* Ask if discounts may be used in conjunction with other promotions or coupons.

* Join organizations to get discounts on car rentals, cruises, hotels, airlines and tours.

* Get the Golden Age Passport (for senior citizens 62 or older) for $10 from the national park you wish to visit, if it charges a fee, for a lifetime of free admissions. Contact the National Park Service (202-485-9880) for details.

* Find out whether the discount can be extended to others traveling in your group even if they don't meet the age requirement.

* Start with Kelly Monaghan's Fly Cheap (The Intrepid Traveler, $14.95) for a list of discount offerings.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:travel discounts by age
Author:Brown, Ann
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 1999
Words:933
Previous Article:Benefit from overbookings.
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